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04.06.2020

Rebecca Bissonnet ACR "Freedom and routine: what lockdown has taught me about me"

Whilst we are all in the same lockdown boat, our individual experiences will be very different. It will be shaped by our family dynamics, financial situation, work commitments or lack of, our own mental health and that of those around us. So this is my lockdown experience, which may reflect yours or may be a million miles away.

I am in the fortunate position of having been furlough from work, relieving the financial worry from my mind, but the guilt of CPD and keeping abreast of conservation and thoughts of how and if I return to work is there.

Before lockdown, I worked full time as a textile conservator. The main bread winner. The one who got up first. Was out the door by seven twenty. Any later and I would be stuck in traffic, so seven twenty it was. Now I am a teacher, cleaner, chef, children’s entertainer, cyclist and know more about model railways than I ever knew possible. Yes, I am in lockdown with a child. And as anyone with children can appreciate, child care is a full time job, as is teaching, as (in my case) is conservation. So my lockdown has been trying to work out how to home school, run a household and keep my conservation enthusiasm alive.

I feel constantly guilty that I will not emerge from this experience with a new language, comprehensive CPD and yoga routine under my belt. I, like so many, have concerns about my job, but for the time being, working for a large organisation, that decision has been taken out of my hands. As I scan my emails and see the myriad of links to virtual exhibitions, future learning, online course, I enthusiastically signed up to all that interested me. Now 9 weeks in, I am struggling to complete my chosen courses and this is were the guilt creeps in.

So like many I want to hold onto and make the most of the golden opportunity to spend time at home. Complete all the DIY and gardening projects that I never have time for. Spend time with my son. Do all the things I have planned to do if I worked part time, or when I retire. But in reality this sets up a battle in my mind between doing all of this, making the bes of the situation, yet realising it wont last forever, or will it. Thought's from the darkest time, when it looked like the number of deaths the UK was racking up each day would never come down.

So after the initial painting, gardening and baking my way to a good lockdown gain, I took myself in hand and realised that I am very much like a baby. I need routine. I can’t teach, cook, clean etc and have the right mindset or undisrupted time to concentrate on conservation. I needed a plan.

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I decided to get up earlier. My new get up time had extended from six to nineish, sometimes creeping into the tens, so time to claw back some time. Lets say six thirty as I didn’t want to be too hard on myself. This would be my time to re-engage with conservation and finish off the online courses I had enthusiastically signed up to. To look at some of the links that had so generously been provided.

Well one week in and things are going well. The enthusiasm has returned. I have my time in the mornings to think again about conservation and I am finding that this in turn has not only re-engaged by brain but I am enjoying my learning. The sense of guilt is subsiding, I feel as sense of achievement as I start to complete my courses. I can now see CPD opportunities around me. Year 6 science is looking at mould growth. There, can I use this to freshen up my knowledge of mould? Yes I can. Making masks. New pattern cutting and construction skills. Tick.

So for me my biggest realisation is that I love the freedom that lockdown has given me from the commute and time restraints of work, but in reality I need routine and boundaries. Yes I am like a baby. I do well with a routine. This is working for me. This is my lockdown.

Rebecca Bissonnet ACR
Textile Treatment Conservation Supervisor, HRP


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